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The science we are seeking.

When in book 3 of Aristotle's Metaphysics we come upon the phrase that supplies my title, epizetoumenen epistemen (995a24), it does not yet have a haunting tone. Clearly Aristotle is engaged in an exceptionally long windup, but those who imagine that the methodology of the Posterior Analytics can be exemplified only in Euclidean discourse, and who thus have trouble with all the treatises, will already have thrown up their hands. Indeed, after the prolonged aporetic discussions of book 3 comes the firm statement at the opening of book 4: There is a science of being as being and of that which pertains to it per se.

This amounts to the declaration that the discourse in which we are engaged exemplifies the methodology of the Analytics, meaning it has a subject of which properties will be demonstrated by means of principles. Almost immediately qualifications of a massive sort have to be made, lest the enterprise fall afoul of Pierre Aubenque's uraporia:

Every science studies some genus.

Being is not a genus.

There is no science of being as being.(1)

But it is not simply that the way this science is a science keeps presenting difficulties. There are recurrent problems having to do with what functions as its subject. The phrase "the science we are seeking" begins to suggest that we are engaged in a quest whose aim is unclear. Like Aubenque, we may even come to think that the science we seek can never be found.

In what follows I wish to say a few things about how Thomas Aquinas saw the Metaphysics of Aristotle. Understanding Aristotle aright was a critical issue of his time, of course. The Latin West had become the sudden beneficiary not only of texts of Aristotle hitherto unavailable in Latin, but also of the Muslim and Neoplatonist commentators on Aristotle. It was Thomas's task to detach the real Aristotle from the accretions of these traditions, particularly from the Muslim commentators and most particularly from Averroes, whose status alters from the commentator par excellence to the depravator of Aristotle.(2)

Although Thomas exhibits a remarkable acquaintance with Aristotle from the very beginning of his career, his commentaries on or expositiones of Aristotle fall to his final years, the effort fueled by the controversies in Paris generated by what has been called Latin Averroism or heterodox Aristotelianism. By the time Thomas wrote his commentary on the Metaphysics he had several versions of the work available to him.(3)

A feature of a Thomistic commentary is its preface or proemium. Sometimes Thomas embeds his prefatory remarks within the commentary itself,(4) sometimes it is a separate essay, sometimes it is both.(5) The proemium to the commentary on the Metaphysics is a separate essay in which Thomas puts before us an account of the Metaphysics as a unitary effort. This requires him to suggest solutions to some of the more vexed questions that arise in the pursuit of the science we are seeking.(6)


The proemium functions as an overture, striking the major themes of the Metaphysics, and first of all its overture, the magnificent panorama of chapters 1 and 2 of book 1 in which Aristotle, ringing the changes on "all men by nature desire to know," moves from the outer to the inner senses, to reason itself; and, among rational activities, from art to science and onward and upward to wisdom itself, seen as divine knowledge. So too the proemium places the science we are seeking among the other sciences as their sapiential regulator and term.

The argument of Thomas's proemium moves through six stages, which I shall summarize.(7)

1. That there must be a ruling science. When many things are ordered to one, one of them must be directive and rule and the rest directed and ruled.(8)

But all sciences and arts are ordered to one end, namely, to man's perfection, that is, happiness.(9)

Therefore, one thing must be regulative of the others, and it will be called wisdom because sapientis est ordinare.

2. Identifying the ruling science. The analogy from the political order: those with greater intelligence are naturally apt to command those of lesser intelligence.

If intelligence is the prerequisite for command, and the intelligible is the correlative of intelligence, the science that will be naturally regulative of the others will be that which bears on the most intelligible things.

3. Three ways of identifying the most intelligible Things:

(i) ex ordine intelligendi. That from which mind derives its certitude will be most intelligible.

Mind derives the certitude of knowledge from causes, knowledge of causes seeming to be characteristic of intellect.

Therefore, the science which considers the first causes will be most intelligible and that which regulates the others.

The argument thus takes the following form:

A: that from which mind derives its certitude.

B: that which is most intelligible.

C: knowledge of causes.

A is B

C is A

C is B

Certain intellectual knowledge derives from causes.

The higher the causes are, the higher the certainty derived from the causes.

Most certain intellectual knowledge derives from first causes.

The conclusion Thomas wants to reach is that, because any science is had through knowledge of causes which are productive of certitude, the science of first causes is regulative of the other sciences.

(ii) ex comparatio intellectus ad sensum. Intellect differs from sensation as universal differs from particular.

Since the grasp of the universal characterizes intellect, the more universal object will characterize the more intellectual science and the most universal object the most intellectual science.

The most intellectual science deals with the highest universals.

The highest universals are being, one, many, and potency and act.

These universals are not treated by any particular science, yet they ought not be left untreated.

They will be treated in a common (that is, not particular) science, which will be the most intellectual science, and thus regulative of the other sciences.

(iii) ex cognitione intellectus. Possession of the intellectual power depends upon being free of matter: the intelligible is separated from matter.

To be more or most separated from matter is to be more or most intelligible.

Concern with that which is most separated from matter (and therefore most intelligible) is most intellectual.

Intellect and the intelligible are correlatives since understanding and the actually understood are one.

In what does more or less separation from matter consist? It consists not only in separation from signate matter (for example, the consideration of natural forms apart from matter or of the species apart from the accidents of the individual) as in natural science, but from all sensible matter; and not only secundum rationem as in mathematics, but secundum esse, sicut Deus et intelligientiae.

The science that treats of such things (that is, of things separated secundum rationem et secundum esse) would seem to be most intellectual and thus the chief and ruling science.

4. Threefold consideration but one science. "The most intelligible" things, arrived at by three different criteria, turn out to be (i) the first causes, (ii) the most universal things, and (iii) the things most separate from matter.

Either we have three wisdoms--which defeats the exercise, since on the assumption that all sciences are ordered to one, we are looking for the regulative science--or the consideration of "the most intelligible" in these three senses falls to one and the same science.

Substances separate from matter are first causes of being.

It falls to the same science to consider a genus and the causes of that genus.

Being taken universally is the genus of which those separated substances are the first and universal causes.

Therefore, this science considers these three things; but only ens commune or being in all its generality or universality, is its subject.

The subject of a science is that thing whose causes and properties we seek.

Any science seeks the causes of its genus, that is, of the kind of thing it studies.

5. How may we Characterize this Science? Although the subject of this science is ens commune, the whole is said to be concerned with what is separate from matter secundum rationem et secundum esse, since this is applicable both to what never can exist in matter (God and intellectual substances), but also to things which can be without matter, such as ens commune. Hoc tamen non, contingeret, si a materia secundum esse dependeret.

Here we may raise Suzanne Mansion's query: If ens commune does not depend upon matter because it can be found without matter, and if this possibility is realized or actualized in God and angels, either they are part of ens commune, the subject of metaphysics, or we have an unrealizable potentiality, which is no potentiality at all.(10)

6. Names of this science. Given its three considerations, this science is called three things:

divine science or theology, insofar as it considers separate substance;

metaphysics insofar as it studies being and what pertains to it as such, this being after physics in the way of resolution as the more common after the less common;

first philosophy insofar as it studies the first causes.

Sic igitur patet quid sit subiectum huius scitiae, et qualiter se habeat ad alias scientias, et quo nomine nominetur.


The modern reader will be struck by how neatly the problem Jaeger saw as crucial is handled here, although Thomas no more than Avicenna would have accepted the problem in the terms Jaeger posed it.(11) Neither God nor first causes are possible candidates for subject of the science we are seeking.(12) Nonetheless, as Metaphysics 1 makes clear, the science we are seeking is such knowledge of the divine as is possible for us. How can a science of being as being, an ontology, become a theology? What we have in Aristotle, to put it in Heideggerian terms, is an onto-theo-logy. I now propose to examine more closely several of the crucial moves in the proemium.

1. Putting a Premium on Universality. Because it provides a sense of "the most intelligible" that takes off from the distinction between sense and intellect, the grasp of the universal is seen as the mark of intellect. If universality is the mark of the intelligible, the science that deals with the most universal is said to take precedence over the others. That is, an identification is made between the most universal and the most intelligible. What things are most universal and most intelligible? Being, one, many, potency and act.

We must be astounded by this, especially as it is put forward in the name of Aristotle. Aristotle seems to insist on just the opposite of the identification Thomas proposes. For Aristotle, the most universal is the least intelligible. The methodological remarks at the outset of the Physics liken progress in knowledge to seeing something from afar and then approaching it gradually: the initial grasp is progressively refined until we see that the object is indeed the cast-iron lawn deer we never thought to loathe again. The analogue of this for intellection is the initial generic grasp which, with reflection and study, becomes ever more specific until definitive knowledge of the kind of thing it is is had. The first universal knowledge is confused and imperfect, and demands to be completed in the direction of the less universal and more specific.(13) The species is more intelligible than the genus; it is thus the less, not the more or most, universal that is most intelligible.

Has Thomas left himself open to the most frequently expressed misgiving about metaphysics, namely, that it puts a premium on vagueness and generality, and seems to wish us to believe that to know a snail-darter as a being is somehow more profound than knowing it as a snail-darter? After he has listed being, one, and act and potency as instances of the most universal, Thomas adds that these ought not to be left undiscussed, as they would be if there were only particular sciences, since none of the particular sciences has their discussion as its proper task.(14) Here the science we are seeking seems to be compared explicitly with the particular sciences as the generic to the specific.

A moment's reflection tells us that this will not do. If the subject matters of natural philosophy and mathematics compared to that of the science we are seeking as species to their genus. then there would be but one science, not three: the particular sciences would simply be departments of ontology which carry the discussion away from the universal toward the specific. But that is not at all how Aristotle, or Thomas, compares them.

There is an equivocation on "genus" operative in talk of the development of an inquiry along the lines suggested at the outset of the Physics. The genus can be a predicable universal--that which is said of many specifically different things. in Porphyry's definition--or the genus may be the genus subiectum of a science, that of which properties are proved.(15) We must turn to Thomas's third account of "most intelligible" for a reminder of the way subject matters of sciences, genera subiecta, differ from one another.

The mark of intellection, Thomas notes, is immunity from matter; thus the objects most proportioned to such an activity will be those most distant from matter. You have permission to feel surprise. Has Thomas revealed himself to be a transcendental Thomist? Is he arguing that certain objects are demanded by the very nature of intellection? I suggest that we have here the kind of shorthand Thomas employs when he is reminding us of a position rather than establishing it. After all, he simply asserts that intellection is immaterial and then says things about its object by making use of the correlation between the intelligible and intellect.(16) None of this is being established here; Thomas is reminding his auditor of what he has already learned from his study of the De anima.(17)

2. Abstraction and Separation. Students of the proemium regularly and rightly compare it to that remarkable work of Thomas's youth, the Expositio of Boethius's On the Trinity. There, Thomas characterizes the object of any theoretical science (the speculabile) by traits from intellection on the one hand, and traits from the habit of science on the other: intellection requires immateriality; the habit of science requires necessity, that is, immunity from change, that is, distance from matter. The two traits coalesce into one and it is abstraction or separation from matter that is proper to the speculabile. Accordingly, it is just insofar as there are formally different ways in which the concerns of different sciences relate to matter--or are immaterial--that different sciences are different sciences. That difference will show up in the mode of defining, because the definition of the subject supplies the middle term in the apodictic syllogism constitutive of a science. This is what Thomas is recalling in the proemium.

Those things are most separate from matter which not only abstract from

signate matter, like the natural forms taken universally with which natural

science deals, but in every way from sensible matter. And not

simply insofar as they are thought about, e.g. mathematicals, but also

insofar as they exist, such as God and the intelligences.(18)

This passage neatly summarizes what Thomas has laid out in far more detail in the commentary on Boethius's tractate, but it points ahead, of course, to the discussion in Metaphysics 6 and thus paves the way, in the overture, for an indication of the later teaching on how the science we are seeking can be at once ontology and theology.

For the last half century, Thomists have discussed these matters, not in terms of three modes of abstraction from matter, but rather in terms of a distinction between abstraction and separation, the latter characterizing metaphysical intellectual activity.(19) By and large abstractio and separatio are interchangeable in Thomas's usage, but in this article he assigns a narrower sense to each thanks to which they are distinguished. To consider apart what does not exist apart is what abstraction in its narrower sense means, whereas to consider apart what exists apart is separation in the narrow sense of the term. So understanding abstraction, the subjects of natural philosophy and of mathematics are said to be products of abstraction. The nature defined with sensible matter that is considered apart from the accidents of individuals having that nature does not, of course, exist apart from them. Its apartness or abstraction is secundum rationem but not secundum esse. The same is true of mathematicals, which abstract not only from singular sensible matter--this flesh, these bones--but also from common sensible matter, flesh and bone. Mathematicals, however, no more than the natures of physical things, do not exist apart from sensible particulars.

Metaphysics is constituted by a negative judgment that something exists apart from matter and motion. It is on the basis of such a judgment that to be and to be material are no longer identified and that the account of being that makes no mention of sensible matter can be taken to be, not merely a vaguer way of thinking of sensible objects, but a notion which gives "being" a predicable range beyond sensible substance. Where and on what basis is such a judgment made?

Avicenna denies that God can be the subject of metaphysics because his existence is established by the metaphysician and no science demonstrates that it has a subject to deal with. Would Thomas agree with Avicenna that a proof of the existence of God is not a presupposition of metaphysics? I don't think he would, at least not without qualification. For Thomas, it is in the course of doing natural philosophy that Aristotle came to know, that is, proved, that to be and to be a physical object are not identical. The first instance of this occurs at the end of the Physics when the need is seen for a Prime Mover, which is unlike physical movers that in moving are moved. The second occurs in book 3 of De anima, when the nature of intellection, pace Averroes, is taken to entail that a soul capable of such an immaterial activity can subsist without matter.

Thomas sees these as puzzling, even disturbing, achievements. They indicate a horizon beyond that of natural science and they will be the basis for the pursuit recorded by the Metaphysics. If to be and to be material are not identical, can there be a science of being as being? What would it be like? This is the science we are seeking and we can see the difficulties which attend the description of its subject matter.

If the genus subiectum were merely a more common predicable genus, the subjects of natural philosophy and of mathematics would be species of this genus and, since the subject genus is the principle of unity of a science, these three would not be three distinct sciences. But if a genus subiectum is distinct from another because of its different way of defining--that is, because of the different way in which matter and motion are excluded from its definitions--the subject of metaphysics will be formally different from those of natural philosophy and mathematics and they will not be species of it.(20) In short, "being" is predicable of immaterial as well as material being.

This seems to suggest that, if being is the subject of metaphysics, and being is both immaterial and material--a truth established along with the proof that there is a prime mover--then God must be part of the subject of metaphysics. But Thomas explicitly denies this. What then is the point of the science we are seeking? It cannot be to prove the existence of immaterial being, or of God, because that is presupposed. Accordingly, the subject of natural philosophy must suffice to arrive at such knowledge. The science we are seeking seems not so much unfindable as unnecessary, otiose.(21)

Thomas addresses this by distinguishing two senses of the claim that there are things which not only can be understood without matter but which can so exist. The first and obvious application of the description would be to things which never exist in matter, for example, God and the angels. The second application is to what can exist apart from matter, namely, ens commune. This is of course the subject of the science we are seeking, but the warrant for saving that "being" has applicability beyond material substance is its applicability to God, and God is not part of the subject of metaphysics.

A way out of this difficulty could be found by distinguishing separate substances other than God from God and saying that they but not He are part of the subject of metaphysics. since they are among the beings of which God is the cause. Let us put this possibility aside, for two reasons. First, because it may seem to depend upon clarifications we find in Thomas and which are arguably not found in Aristotle, and second, because keeping the problem simple, or at least simpler, enables me to state what I take to characterize the trajectory of the science we are seeking.

Here is my suggestion. If it is the case that the recognition of beings beyond the realm of natural being is one of the unlooked-for achievements of natural philosophy, this recognition or knowledge is expressed by way of contrast with, or negation of, features of the subjects of natural philosophy. There is a mover which, unlike natural movers, is not moved in moving. This mover, consequently, exists separately from matter, if matter is the principle of being moved. Just as awareness of such a mover arises from reflection on the realm of moved movers, so descriptions of it, and talk about it, borrow on descriptions of physical or natural objects. Not only is such talk oblique and negative, it takes place on the margin of the central object of concern: natural things, that is, things that have come to be as the result of a change.

This creates a sense not only of a further task, of unfinished business, but also of a task different from the one we would face if it were simply a question, say, of talking about how the theory of proportionals is applicable to both arithmetic and geometry, or the way in which first principles of demonstration are variously found in different particular sciences. Such a discussion is called dialectical by Aristotle--it could even be sophistical--but it does not give rise to or depend upon any claim that there are substances which exist separately from matter.(22)

The discussion of common notes takes on a new valence when one is convinced that there are separate substances, things which exist apart from matter. The science we are seeking is driven by the desire to know such things. That is why it is a theology. But divine things are introduced in Metaphysics 1.2 as first causes. Causes, as causes, are not the subject of a science. But these things have already come to be known as causes. How then may we characterize the science we are seeking?

Here is my suggestion. The science of being as being is undertaken with an eye to arriving at a knowledge of God better than the oblique and negative knowledge already had. The model I am suggesting derives from the distinction St. Thomas makes among the divine names. Such names, he notes, are negative, relative, and positive.(23) To say of God that he is immaterial or timeless is of course to deny of Him traits of creatures. To say of God that he is Lord or cause, is to speak of Him in relation to His effects. But there are other divine attributes, or names, which give us an intimation of what God is in Himself For example, God is intelligent and loving; God is. Of course, for Thomas, all our knowledge of God is derivative from and dependent upon our knowledge of creatures, but in this case of what he calls affirmative or positive attributes the meaning of the terms does not include a reference to creatures.

Well, difficult as all that is, it will seem to have a straightforwardness that takes us far beyond the Metaphysics. It does. But it also provides a way of construing what it is Aristotle is doing. The reason the phrase "the science we are seeking" becomes poignant is that, even after the extended and tentative treatment of book 3 and the ringing assertion with which book 4 begins--there is a science of being as being and of that which belongs to it per se--the very subject of the inquiry remains elusive. It is not simply that "being" is said in many ways and we must establish the primacy of ousia and argue that it provides sufficient focus for us to talk of a science of being as being. Even taken as the science of substance. the task remains obscure.

Who has not been puzzled by Metaphysics 7 and 8? I do not mean simply their elusive contents, but their point. There is of course the anti-Platonic polemic and the dismissal of universals as instances of separate substance. But this seems to leave us with natural substance. What we would expect is an account of ousia that does not include matter. What we find is rather a reflection on natural substance. Why is this?

It is because the study of natural substance is taken to be a way toward such knowledge of immaterial substance as we can attain. It is as if, knowing as a result of proofs in natural philosophy that there is something more to talk about, Aristotle is devising a language which will enable him to speak of separate substance. This requires a look at sensible substance with an eye toward devising such a language. Consider, from this point of view, the apparent identification of essence and form in the analysis of sensible substance. Since essence is what is expressed in the definition, this clearly goes contrary to Aristotle's view that the natures, essences, and thus definitions of sensible things include sensible matter. Why then does he move toward the equation of form and essence? The process begins, does it not, when Aristotle asks what in sensible substances is most substance? This turns out to be a question as to whether matter or form or composite most deserves the appellation substance. The answer is form.

The argument is that form is more deserving of the appellation substance than matter, the two being related as act to potency.(24) Thomas sees two arguments for the priority of form over the composite. The first follows on the proof for the primacy of form. If the composite includes matter, and form is prior to matter, then form is prior to the composite which includes matter. The second argument is this: Principles are prior to that of which they are the principles, but matter and form are the principles of the composite; ergo, matter and form are prior to the composite. Again, form is prior to matter.(25) What follows from this is not the claim that the sensible substance is form or that the composite is one of its components, but rather that in composite substances that which is most substance, which is the chief ground of their being and being called substance is form. What follows is this: If there is a substance which is not composite, calling it a substance is in effect to call it a form. There is thus an extrapolation from the sensible to the separate substance, not this time in terms of a proof that the latter exists, but rather in terms of a refinement of our understanding and talk about separate substance.

So understood, the Metaphysics is a quest, a seeking for a science that will provide less imperfect knowledge of God than we already have in beginning the science. The subject matter is in the process of being fashioned; this, I think, is at least partial justification of Aubenque's notion that Aristotle is in pursuit of something tragically unfindable.

When in the proemium Thomas confronts the problem that we want to say both that the subject of metaphysics is that which can be defined without matter and motion and that God is not part of the subject of the science, he distinguishes between that which does not necessarily exist in matter (being, one, act. potency, and so forth) and that which never exists in matter (God, the angels). We will of course object that the only way we can pay off on being, act. potency, and so forth existing apart from matter, will be by appealing to the things which never exist in matter, and we are back to the difficulty raised by Suzanne Mansion.

I hope that now that difficulty can be seen differently. In fashioning the subject of the science we are seeking, Aristotle is in effect looking at natural substance to see if he can fashion a notion of substance which, while it will be inadequate with respect to natural substance--substance as form--provides a sense of the term which makes it affirmatively applicable to separate substances. In short, he is engaged in establishing that ousia is analogously common to material and separate substance.

This interpretation, prompted by St. Thomas, can be seen to accommodate our sense of how imperfectly "the science we are seeking" exemplifies the characteristics of episteme. Then we see the tentativeness of the Metaphysics, not as a sign of its having been cobbled together, but as an inescapable feature of any human effort to move beyond sensible objects to others known only on the basis of our knowledge of sensible objects.

If knowledge of sensible objects is so dependent, then necessarily our talk of them is likewise dependent, at least by way of origin. Is it possible to pass beyond the negative and the relative to some intimation of what God is in himself? The answer is to be found in Metaphysics 12, the culmination of all that has gone before. God is thought thinking itself.

And then comes, stated in relative terms, the poetic assertion of monotheism: One ruler is best, one ruler let there be. (1) Cf. Pierre Aubenque's three propositions: 1) Il y a une science de l'etre en tant qu'etre. 2) Toute science porte sur un genre determine. 3) L'etre n'est pas un genre. Pierre Aubenque, Le probleme de l'etre chez Aristote, 2d ed. (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1977), 222. Aubenque's actual claim, it will be seen, is that one cannot hold all three of these to be true simultaneously. The argument I have formulated is the relevant upshot of this impossibility. (2) See Ralph McInerny, Thomas Aquinas Against the Averroists: On There Being Only One Intellect (Lafayette: Purdue University Press 1993), 79. (3) Thomas used only Latin translations of Aristotle, Avicenna, Averroes, and the Neoplatonist commentators; but he was the beneficiary of the translating efforts of William of Moerbeke, his fellow Dominican who eventually became bishop of Corinth. (4) The commentary on the De anima is precipicated by what Thomas identifies as Aristotle's own preface or proemium, thus numbering the author among his commentators: "In tractatu autem de anima quem habemus pre manibus, primo ponit prohemium, in quo facit tria que necessaria sunt in quolibet prohemio"; Sentencia super De anima, in Opera Omnia, Leonine ed., vol. 45.1, p. 4.24-26. Dante, in the famous dedicatory letter to Can Grande della Scala, wrote a proem iu m to the Divina Commedia. (5) See Commentarium in sensu et sensato. ed. Angeli M. Pirotta (Turin: Marietti, 1928), lect. 1, nn. 1-6. Here there is an embedded, extended introduction before the text begins to be commented on. For a proemium the editors set aside as a separate essay, see the Prooemium S. Thomae to his Commentarium in de caelo et mundo, ed. R Spiazzi (Turin: Marietti, 1952). In both of these, Thomas provides remarkable overviews of the natural writings of Aristotle and their interrelations. (6) The proemium to the commentary on the Metaphysics has attracted the interest of many. See, for example, James Doig, Aquinas on Metaphysics (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1972), 55-94; Alberto Gajano, "Il Problema della metafisica come scienza nel Commento de S. Tommaso d'Aquino alla Metafisica di Aristotele," in Studi Medievali 5 (1964), 793-819; Suzanne Mansion, "L'intelligibilte metaphysique d'apres le prooemium du commentaire de Saint Thomas a la Metaphysique d'Aristote," in Rivista de filosofia neo-scolastica 70 (1978): 49-62 (reprinted in her Etudes aristoteliciennes, [Louvain-la-Neuve: Editions de l'Institut Superieur de Philosophie, 1984], 509-22); and Jean-Francois Courtine, Suarez et le systeme de la metaphysique (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1990), 31-74. Hermann Weidemann's essay, "Zum Problem der Begrundung der Metaphysik bei Thomas von Aquin," concentrates on the exposition of Boethius's De trinitate, which, of course, any complete rethinkig of the proemium before us would have to take into account. See Hermann Weidemann, "Zum Problem der Begrundung der Metaphysik bei Thomas von Aquin," in Ontologie und Theologie, ed. Matthias Lutz-Bachmann (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 1988), 37-63. (7) See In XII Libros Metaphysicorum Aristotelis Expositio, ed. M. R. Cathala and R. Spiazzi (Turin: Marietti, 1950). The proemium is set off from the commentary proper, on pp. 1-2. I follow it closely in what follows. (8) For example, the soul naturally commands and the body obeys, both being ordered to the good of the living substance; also, for instance, among the powers of the soul, the passions are, in the natural order, ruled by reason. (9) These are activities undertaken for the sake of someend, and this must be the good of the agent. Needless to say, the end of theoretical uses of the mind differs from that of its practical uses, and art differs from prudence; but this does not affect the validity of the generation. (10) See Mansion, "L'intelligibilite metaphysique," 53; (reprint, p. 513). (11) See Werner Jaeger, Aristotle, trans. Richard Robinson, 2d ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1948), 216-19. (12) "Dico igitur impossibile esse ut ipse deus sit subjectum hujus scientiae, quoniam subjectum omnis scientiae est res quae conceditur esse, et ipsa scientia non inquirit nisi dispositiones illius subjecti"; M. M. Anawati, La Metaphysique du Shifa', (Paris: J. Vrin, 1978-1985), 1:4, 1:60-3. See also Courtine, Suarez et le systeme metaphysique, 14-24. For Thomas, see In VII Metaph., lect. 17. The argument is roughly this: Only the complex can be the subject of a science, God is simple; ergo, God is not the subject of a science. (13) Thomas not only knows this hallmark of Aristotelian procedure and makes use of it with great elaboration in the proemia to the commentaries on the De coelo and the De sensu et sensato mentioned above, but also insists on it in his discussion of human knowledge in Summa theologiae I, q. 85, a. 3. (14) It should be noted that a consideration of such notions, which transcend the limits of the particular sciences, would not go unconsidered even if the science we are seeking proved to be impossible. Following Aristotle, Thomas accepts the need to distinguish the metaphysical consideration of such communia from a dialectical or a sophistical consideration of them. Cf. Metaphysics 4.2.1004b17-27 and St. Thomas, In IV Metaph., lect. 4, nn. 572-577. (15) What I called Aubenque's ur-aporia can be seen to trade on this ambiguity. (16) "Intelligibile enim et intellectum oportet proportionata esse, et unius generis, cum intellectus et intelligibile in actu sint unum"; In Metaph., proemium. All translations are my own. (17) It is clear that all proemia are sapiential or metaphysical, in that they locate a particular inquiry within philosophy. Obviously, the beginner who is being told the place of logic within philosophy, or the relation between the Physics and other natural works when he is just embarking on the study of natural philosophy, is in no position to assess what he is being told, nor is it the proper business at hand. From the beginner's point of view it must often seem a matter of obscurum per obscurius. The vantage point from which the various sciences are compared is not the vantage point of any special science. Hence it is metaphysical. The proemium to the Metaphysics, addressed as it is to advanced students of philosophy, will invoke the knowledge they have and arrange it in such a way that the result is at once familiar and strange. Even here oportet addiscentem credere. (18) "Ea vero sunt maxime a materia separata, quae non tantum a signata materia abstrahunt, |sicut formae naturales in universali acceptae, de quibus tractat scientia naturalis,' sed omnino a materia sertsibili. Et non solum secundum rationem, sicut mathematica, sed etiam secundum esse, sicut Deus et intelligentiae"; In Metaph., proemium. (19) The "Gogol's overcoat" out of which so many other discussions have come is L. B. Geiger, "Abstraction et separation d'apres S. Thomas: in de trinitate, q. 5, a. 3," Revue des Sciences Philosaphiques et Theologiques 31 (1947): 206-23. Geiger studied the holographs in which Thomas made several attempts before he hit upon the strategy that takes him through this remarkable article 3. There have not been wanting Thomists who see in the role assigned separatio a basis for distinguishing the metaphysics of Thomas from that of Aristotle. For reasons to doubt such conclusions, see Ralph McInerny, Boethius and Aquinas (Washington: The Catholic University of America Press, 1990), 148-58. The holographs have been transcribed in Sancti Thomae de Aquino Expositio super librum Boethii De Trinitate, ed. Bruno Decker (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1959), 230-4. (20) Thomas goes into this; see In Boethii de trinitate, q. 5, a. 1, ad 6: "Quamvis subiecta aliarum scientiarum sint partes entis, quod est subiectum metaphysicae, non tamen oportet quod aliae scientiae sint partes ipsius. Accipit enim unaquaeque scientiarum unam partem entis secundum specialem modum considerandi alium a modo, quo consideratur ens in metaphysica, non enim est pars entis secundum illam rationem, qua ens est subiectum metaphysicae, sed hac ratione considerata ipsa est specialis scientia aliis condivisa" (21) That Thomas does indeed see proofs of the existence of immaterial things by the natural philosopher as a presupposition of metaphysics is clear from the commentary itself. "Quia in rebus non solum sunt corpores, sed etiam quaedam incorporea, ut patet ex libro de Anima"; In I Metaph., lect. 12, n. 181. "Non enim omne ens est huiusmodi, cum probatum sit in octavo Physicorum, esse aliquod ens immobile. Hoc autem ens immobile superius est et nobilius ente mobili, de quo considerat naturalls. Et quia ad illa scientiam pertinet consideratio entis communis, ad quam pertinet consideratio entis primi, ideo ad aliam scientiam quam ad naturalem pertinet consideratio entis communis; et eius etiam erit considerare huiusmodi principia communia. Physica enim est quaedam pars philosophiae: sed non prima, quae considerat ens commune, et ea quae sunt entis inquantum huiusmodi"; In IV Metaph., lect.5,n.593. "Scilicet quod sit quaedam |natura immobilis', scilicet natura primi motoris, ut probatum est in octavo Physicorum"; Ibid., lect. 13, n. 690. Hence the reiterated phrase that, if there were no immaterial substance, natural philosophy would be first philosophy; see, for instance, In Metaph., nn. 398, 1170, 2267. (22) On dialectical, sophistical and metaphysical considerations, see In TV Metaph., lect. 4, nn. 572-577. (23) Summa theologiae I, q. 13. a. 2. For the textual basis for this distinction, see Ralph McInerny, Being and Predication (Washingion: The Catholic University of America Press, 1986), 272. (24) "Forma prior est materia. Materia enim est ens in potentia, et species est actus eius. Actus autem naturaliter prior est potentia. Et simpliciter loquendo prior tempore, quia non movetur potentia ad actum nisi per ens actu. . . . Unde patet quod forma est prior quam materia, et etiam magis ens quam ipsa, quia propter quod unumquodque et illud magis"; In VII Metaph., lect. 2, n. 1278. (25) Ibid., n. 1279.
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Title Annotation:Thomas Aquinas on Aristotle's 'Metaphysics'
Author:McInerny, Ralph
Publication:The Review of Metaphysics
Date:Sep 1, 1993
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